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2011-12 New York Knicks Preview

After seven long years, the New York Knicks returned to the season deal that brought them Carmelo Anthony.

However, everyone in New York knew those two would not be enough and it showed in the playoffs, as the Knicks were swept by the Boston Celtics in the first round of the playoffs following a 42-40 campaign, their first winning season since 2000-01.

The thought was that even with those moves the Knicks were still a year away since everyone assumed they would make a strong push for point guard Chris Paul next summer.

The Knicks, though, never thought that was a feasible plan and instead shifted gears, going after the best free agent available this year in center Tyson Chandler and landing the big man with a four-year, $58 million deal.

"I think for us, the sky's the limit," Anthony said. "I think the organization did a great job of just building a very unique front court. We're ready to take on the challenges that are to come. Line 'em up. We're ready to play."

Chandler instantly gives the Knicks a defensive presence in the middle and will only make Stoudemire better with him being able to move back to his normal power forward position.

The Knicks now have their "Big Three" are ready for a serious run at an Eastern Conference crown.

2010-11 Results: 42-40, second in Atlantic. Lost in East quarterfinals to Boston.

ADDITIONS: C Tyson Chandler, G Mike Bibby, G Baron Davis , G Iman Shumpert, PF/C Josh Harrelson.

PROJECTED STARTING FIVE:

PG- Toney Douglas SG- Landry Fields SF- Carmelo Anthony PF- Amare Stoudemire C- Tyson Chandler

KEY RESERVES: G Iman Shumpert, C/F Jared Jeffries, C Jerome Jordan, F Bill Walker, G Mike Bibby, G Baron Davis.

FRONTCOURT: With the addition of Chandler there might not be a better front court in the NBA than he, Stoudemire and Anthony.

The Knicks needed not only a center, but one who would be disruptive in the middle and give them that defensive presence they so sorely needed.

"Right now, if it was all done with paper, I would say we were the best," Chandler said of the Knicks' front line. "But the game's not played on paper. We got a lot of work to do."

The 29-year-old Chandler was just that last season and played an integral role in the Dallas Mavericks NBA championship last season, averaging 10.1 points, 9.4 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game.

"I just think the future of the team, being able to play alongside Amare Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony and the young talent we have, I feel like it puts us contention over the next four or five years," Chandler said.

The Anthony saga seemed to drag on last season, but finally came to an end in mid-February when he was dealt to New York from Denver as part of a three- team, 13-player deal. Anthony, who averaged 26.3 points in 27 games for the Knicks, also appears to be in the best shape of his life following an offseason that saw him undergo both elbow and knee surgery, two procedures he has been putting off for years.

Mike D'Antoni has also said that a lot of the offense will run through Anthony, who will play more of the role of point forward this season. There's also been some question whether or not Anthony and Stoudemire can co-exist together, as the team was a mere 14-18, including the playoffs, following the deal.

"There's nothing major that we have to change," Anthony said. "It's just a matter of getting used to playing with one another. But we're good man. I don't understand where that came from, that we can't play together. But Amare will be good, I'll be good."

Nobody will benefit from the addition of Chandler more than Stoudemire, who more often than not last season was forced to play out of position without a true center in the lineup. The wear and tear on his body showed in the playoffs, as a back injury made him a non-factor in the series against the Celtics.

Stoudemire, though, will be back at his usual power forward position this season and will look to improve on an otherwise impressive first season in New York that saw him score 25.3 points to go along with 8.2 boards-per-game.

BACKCOURT: To create the cap room to sign Chandler, the Knicks used the amnesty provision in the new collective bargaining agreement to shed Chauncey Billups' contract meaning they have a huge void at the point.

Toney Douglas will likely start the season as the Knicks' starter, but once newly-signed Baron Davis is healthy enough to play he'll likely slot in there. Douglas, meanwhile, is probably more suited to be combo-guard off the bench.

"At the end of the day, it'll show on the court," Douglas said. "That's how I am. My play will speak for itself."

Like Billups, Davis was amnestied by Cleveland, but has some back problems that some say could keep him out of action for two months. Davis played in 43 games for the Los Angeles Clippers last season before being dealt to the Cavs at the trade deadline. In 58 total contests last year, Davis averaged 13.1 points, 6.7 assists and 2.7 rebounds.

Landry Fields was an All-NBA Rookie Teamer a year ago and will assume the starting shooting guard role this year. Fields, though, seemed to struggle after Anthony was acquired. Most feel, however, that one had nothing to do with the other and that the second round pick just simply ran out of steam late in the season.

BENCH: New York's bench should be improved after it was left paper thin following the Anthony deal last season. Rookie Iman Shumpert has already drawn rave reviews, while centers Jared Jeffries and Jerome Jordan, as well as veterans Bill Walker and Mike Bibby all figure to crack D'Antoni's rotation.

Shumpert, the 17th overall pick in last June's draft, is a defensive specialist that can play almost anywhere on the court. Some have speculated that it will be he and not Davis who eventually handles the point for this team.

Before the Chandler acquisition Jeffries had been slated to be the team's center. Say what you will about him, but he did give the Knicks somewhat of a defensive presence down the stretch last season.

Jordan is a wild card after playing overseas the past few years. The Knicks, though, are reportedly high on him.

Bibby, meanwhile, has seen better days, but he gives the Knicks a veteran to help Douglas along the way. Where he fits on this team once Davis gets healthy, though, remains to be seen.

COACHING: D'Antoni is what he is, a great offensive mind that has perfected the SSOL (seven-seconds-or-less) offensive strategy. To win in this league you must play defense, though. Either he has realized that or was instructed by higher-ups at MSG to improve upon the team's defense because they hired Mike Woodson for just that reason. With expectations running so high, this being the final year of his contract and Phil Jackson always lurking in the wings, this could be a make-or-break season with regards to D'Antoni's future in New York.

"As a player, you play well and things work out, the same as a coach," D'Antoni said. "You play well and things will work out. I'm just happy to be able to coach these guys. I really think we have some terrific things ahead of us.

OUTLOOK: There is no question, the Knicks are back. A lot of people like them to win the Atlantic Division this season given the truncated schedule and the toll it may take on an aging Boston Celtics team. But, then again the Knicks have similar concerns with Stoudemire and to a lesser extent Davis. Either way this is a playoff team. How far they go, though, may very well be determined by just how much they buy into Woodson's defensive schemes. Chandler wasn't brought here for his looks, he was here to play defense and part of that entails not only Stoudemire and Anthony to do the same, even if it means a little less on the offensive end for both. If they all commit, there is no telling just how far this team can go.

"It might be a bumpy ride, it might be a smooth ride," Anthony said. "It depends on what road we take."